Monday, August 16, 2010
Expendables... a half great movie
Ok, as I am a man of my word I did go see "The Expendables" this weekend. For starters HOORAY MEN!!! Eat Pray Love, ate it, and Scott Pilgrim's took on the world... and lost. I think the only people who saw it were Ramona's 7 exes.
That said... The Expendables. What a treat. But where it could've been a balls out insane throwback film, and at points it is, it honestly plays it a little safe.
The core problem with The Expendables is that it took larger than life actors, placed them in larger than life characters, then spend a large portion of the movie trying to ground them and make them regular Joes. A great deal of effort was spent in making us like the protagonists and not enough was spent on making us hate the bad guys. They want us so badly to think that the main characters aren't the 90% heartless mercs that we really want them to be. It's the "Hooker with a heart of gold" story but here the sex is violence.
Take the film Predator, which at the outset shares the same plot as The Expendables. A group of rough and tumble military types are forced into a hot area to fight some South American Junta. This group of meat-heads rushes through the jungle, calling each other faggots, telling obscene jokes, running out of bleeding time, and destroying everything in their path and whatever slim morals they have are dictated by some slight sense of honor. And we love them for it. Compare that to The Expendables where its first scene has them brutally taking down an entire ship full of Pirates only to complain when Dolph Lundgren is going to hang one of them. The audience has built in love for these actors, it's why you collected them in the first place. The truth is that if you had them act as "bad" as you could, with a flimsy moral compass, you could've had an insane classic on your hand.
But even if they were unecessarily brutal, why would we care? The villains in this are so thinly constructed, (though Eric Roberts ought to be spiral cut because he was such a Honey Baked Ham I mean that as the largest compliment), and the plot which allows them to exist would be sub-par even for a direct to DVD Navy SEALS sequel. May I reference another "man movie" here, Rambo. Stallone's last Rambo film took great care in crafting such a loathsome and realistic villain who is such a threat to common people that only an action God and his kind could save them. By the time they are done sending innocent men women and children through land-mine wading pools you can't wait for Rambo and his merry band of mercs to blow them to smithereens. And blow them they do... wait, that came out wrong. In The Expendables you only feel they are going after the bad guys because they have nothing better to do.
But enough of my whinging. Let me make it perfectly clear... its a blast to see these guys unleashed on the world. I just wish there was some emotion behind it. BUT... lets glance at the awesome. (minor spoilers)
The Plane scene... holy shit did I not see them turning around to head back in that fashion. I also wondered why Statham grabbed the flare gun when he left the cockpit... glad they cleared that up.
The church scene. I knew the 3 BIG STARS only had one scene together, but man is it a fun scene. Bruce is such a delicious prick, and Arnold clearly was having fun. Lets get a sequel with them having more screen time.
The last 30 minutes... Awesome. While I'm a fan of over the top action, it's been done to death. The trailers for things like Knight and Day and Salt have me groaning at people doing fantastically unrealistic wirework CG stunts. It was so refreshing to have long meat and potatoes (but still fast and outlandish) action scenes. Jason Statham with a knife, Crews + AA12 - Watchtowers, and Stallone and Crews version of the Fastball Special really knock it up to one of the best finales ever. My one complaint is all the CG blood, but whatever.
Dolph Lundgren... I've always liked him, I've secretly harbored a love for his Punisher film that was only recently surpassed by the recent one, Universal Soldier is a hoot, but can I just say that man is the standout in this film. Dolph truly deserves a full fledged 100% comeback. Part of it is because he is one of the few characters with an arc, but most of it is because he's just magnetic.
So is it a perfect film? No. But go out, see it, have a blast with your friends and tell Hollywood that there is still a desire for these kinds of films.
And again, I congratulate you men on making this film #1 this past weekend. I'd like to take all the credit... so I will. THANKS!!!